If you’re wondering why HDR makes your TV look darker, or why HDR shows seem so dim, you’re not alone. It’s a common issue that can be frustrating, especially when you’re expecting those vibrant, high-contrast images that HDR is known for.
But fear not! Let’s delve into the mysteries of HDR and see if we can brighten things up a bit. And if you’re wondering how to make your HDR brighter on your TV, I’ve got some tips for that too. So let’s start by asking ourselves, why does HDR sometimes look a bit dull?
Basically, HDR is supposed to make Black look darker and bright, brighter.
But, No matter how bright you set your TV, the HDR version of a video may not appear as bright as the SDR version. This is not due to the SDR version being artificially boosted, but rather because the HDR version is simply darker, murkier, and less vibrant. This can make it difficult to watch, especially when we are used to the brighter appearance of SDR content.
Why Does HDR Make My TV Darker?
HDR, or high dynamic range, is a technology that allows for a wider range of brightness and color in images and video.
It is often misunderstood as simply being about brightness, but it also includes a higher level of precision within a smaller dynamic range. While HDR content can have much higher maximum brightness levels, this is typically only used for very bright light sources.
One reason why HDR content may appear darker than expected on your TV is that it is often mastered with an average brightness of around 100 nits in mind, while SDR content is mastered with a maximum brightness of 100 nits.
This means that when viewed on an HDR screen, SDR content may appear brighter because it was designed to be viewed at a higher brightness level.
Another reason is that the actual brightness of the display is taken into account during the calibration process for HDR content. If the screen has a lower maximum brightness than the content, some of the very bright details may not be as well defined, which can make the overall image appear darker.
Why Are HDR Shows so Darker than SDR?
The appearance of HDR shows/movies as darker compared to SDR content is not a flaw with HDR itself, but rather a result of the industry’s standards for mastering content and the way that the brightness of the display is taken into account during the initial calibration process.
To give you an example, here I compared the same TV show on SDR, High Brightness SDR, and HDR settings, you can clearly see that where the brightness of SDR content was looking merely like a brightness filter, but on the other hand, HDR content is dark but looks more detailed.
Note: It is worth noting that the standards for mastering HDR content and the optimal brightness levels for display may vary and that the output of games and “HDR demos” on YouTube may not be representative of typical HDR content.
Important: It’s also worth noting that the way your TV interprets the brightness setting at its maximum level may vary depending on the specific model.
How Do I Make My HDR Brighter on My TV?
If you want to make your HDR content appear brighter on your TV, there are a few things you can try:
- Adjust your TV’s brightness setting: Many TVs have a brightness setting that you can adjust in the display settings. Try increasing the brightness to see if it makes a difference.
- Calibrate your display: Proper calibration is important for displaying HDR content correctly. If your display is not calibrated properly, it could be causing the content to appear darker than it should. You can calibrate your display manually or use a calibration tool to help you get the best results.
- Check the content’s mastering level: Some HDR content may be mastered with a lower average brightness than other content. If the content you are watching appears particularly dark, it may be worth checking the mastering level to see if it is lower than other content you have viewed.
- Upgrade your TV: If your TV has a lower maximum brightness, it may be unable to display the full range of brightness in HDR content. Upgrading to a TV with a higher maximum brightness may help to make the content appear brighter.
It’s important to keep in mind that making the HDR content appear brighter may result in a loss of detail in the very bright highlights. It’s a balancing act between making the content appear bright enough and preserving the full range of detail in the image.
Note: Often, HDR content becomes so dull or dark that it becomes impossible to watch due to incorrect calibration settings, the most crucial one being the Gamma value settings, I’ve tested this myself and it makes a significant difference.
Should I Set the Brightness to Max for HDR?
For HDR to perform optimally, the display must boast a peak brightness of 600 nits or more. Unfortunately, many televisions are not capable of 600 nits of brightness, Top-performing HDR TVs can produce 1000 nits of brightness or more. But most HDR TVs produce 600 or less, with some producing only 100 to 300 nits.
As said above, Keep in mind that increasing the brightness of HDR content may cause a loss of detail in very bright highlights. It’s important to find a balance between making the content appear bright enough and preserving all of the details in the image.
Is HDR Supposed to Look Washed Out Or Dull?
HDR, or high dynamic range, is not supposed to look washed out or dull. In fact, one of the main benefits of HDR is that it allows for a wider range of brightness and color, which can result in more vibrant and lifelike images and video.
However, there are a few reasons why HDR content may appear washed out or dull:
- Incorrect calibration: Proper calibration is important for displaying HDR content correctly. If the display is not calibrated properly, the content may appear washed out or dull.
- Low mastering level: Some HDR content may be mastered with a lower average brightness than other content. If the content you are watching appears particularly washed out or dull, it may be worth checking the mastering level to see if it is lower than other content you have viewed.
- Low maximum brightness of the display: If the display has a lower maximum brightness, it may be unable to display the full range of brightness in HDR content, resulting in a washed-out or dull appearance.
It’s worth noting that the appearance of HDR content can also be affected by the viewing environment and the individual viewer’s preferences.
For example, a bright room may make the content appear washed out, while a darker room may make it appear more vibrant.
Ultimately, the appearance of HDR content is a subjective experience and may vary depending on the specific circumstances.
The HDR technology was one of those next-generation technologies that improved pictures and provided an immersive experience, but many users found that it did more harm than good. According to me, TVs still do not have enough brightness to do justice to HDR content and the scope of improvement in hardware, as well as HDR, is vast.
To quickly summarize, here are the key takeaways:
- HDR content has both higher maximum brightness and higher precision within a smaller dynamic range
- The higher brightness in HDR is mostly used for very bright light sources
- You do not need the brightest possible HDR screen to properly display HDR content
- The brightness of the screen is taken into account during the calibration process for HDR content
- If the screen has a lower maximum brightness than the content, some very bright details may not be as well defined, but the overall image should still be fine
- It is important to properly calibrate the display, whether it is a TV with a streaming app, streaming devices, gaming console or a PC, in order to display HDR content brighter.